As much as we love Don Henley’s classic The Boys of Summer, we despise the weeds of spring. And, much like the venerated baseball groundskeeper, we strive to rid our lush green grass of every annoying, irritating, infuriating weed. Sometimes it seems like a losing battle, but professional lawn management companies have some secret tips and tricks to share. With a little diligence, you can use these strategies and overcome those pesky weeds in no time.
Mow and Fertilize
This seems pretty intuitive, and something we generally do anyway, but this is your first line of defense against lawn weeds. Weeds pop up in the bare spots first, so try to eliminate them from your lawn. A healthy lawn will organically discourage the growth of weeds and the fastest way to a healthy lawn is a consistent mowing and fertilizing schedule. Don’t mow your grass too short (about 3″ tall is optimal) and be careful not to over-fertilize as this could be toxic to wildlife and the ground water if you have runoff.
Aerating your lawn, where you loosen the packed-down layers of soil, has many benefits and is actually necessary for healthy grass growth. It also happens to disrupt the growth cycle of weeds, so this is a double whammy. If you are a DIYer, you can rent or buy an aerator at your local hardware or home improvement store, but it’s important to get one that actually pulls out small plugs of grass as it goes, so that nutrients can better get into the soil. Run the aerator over the lawn at least twice, once in each direction. If the lawn is especially compacted, soften it up the night before aeration with a thorough soaking.
Many people prefer to hire a company with commercial equipment to aerate their lawn for them. They know exactly the best way to manicure your lawn to maximize its natural beauty.
Natural Weed Killers
We all know by now the inherent dangers of commercial weed killers. Lawn care professionals agree that, whenever possible, it’s best to use a non-chemical approach to killing weeds. Mix 4 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol in one cup of water, and add to a spray bottle. Spray the weed three days in a row and watch it disappear. White vinegar also works; however, this will kill anything around it. Try to keep your spray limited to the individual offender.
Now that we have identified some things to definitely do to deal with weeds, let’s talk about some big time don’ts. Don’t let your lawn grow too long. Any weeds that are present will go to seed, perpetuating your problem. Don’t scalp your lawn, because weeds will take hold in the bare spots. Finally, don’t use chemical herbicides unless absolutely necessary, and then don’t allow them to come in contact with ornamental plants or grass. Whatever these products touch will die, so use them very sparingly, if at all. If you do chose to use a chemical herbicide, follow the package directions carefully and take note of whether the product is toxic or harmful to pets or children that may have access to the lawn.
If all else fails and the weeds are winning the game, you can call in a professional. Professional lawn care specialists are trained and experienced in eradicating the weeds specific to your geographic area. Nothing makes up for the years of experience these technicians have fighting on the front lines of weed eradication.
Jillynn Stevens, Ph.D., MSW